5 double-edged sword philosophies your brand should avoid

Most of us spend the majority of our time actively working with a team, or as part of a human work system. Whether we are conscious of it or not, your brand's corporate culture can make or break how your team feels about the brand and their place in it.

While most awake and aware leaders say they want a constructive brand culture, many are uncertain of what it takes to shape one. Consequently, they unintentionally lead their people toward the fatal, destructive side of the culture coin. They do this by buying into the following five double-edged sword philosophies that can undermine your mission to craft a constructive brand culture.

Here are the five philosophies to avoid:

1. Winning above all else

Winning is an incredibly powerful motivator. It can move mountains and deliver profits. But when the need to win overrides better judgement, fragments and erodes core values, runs over people, and leads them to the brink of exhaustion, it must be called out. New behaviors that promote and inspire must be integrated. The pursuit of results above all else can cost relationships, health and wellness, trust, quality and safety.

Inside competitive work cultures, members often are expected to operate in a “win/lose” framework, outperform peers and work against—rather than with—their coworkers. What begins as a healthy race often devolves into an unproductive workplace.

Gone unchecked, a once healthy desire to “beat the competition” often creates opportunities for unproductive behaviors and perpetuates neural pathways and automatic ways of thinking. This shows up by people fussing over win/lose scenarios. Shift from a “me” to “we” mindset.

2. Commanding and controlling

In competitively-driven organizations, hierarchy reigns. Historically, this has been seen as the right way to lead, and for many decades it has actually worked. This model is flawed. When leaders and team members are expected, and even encouraged, to power up over others, people sometimes view themselves as pawns in the micromanagement chess game. They lose motivation and initiative, and they give less of their discretionary time to make the brand better. Commanding and controlling is a vicious cycle, and the only way out is to call it out, inspire a new way to lead, and find a new way to follow.

3. Opposing others

In work cultures where members are expected to be critical, oppose others’ ideas and make “safe” decisions, people tend to suppress their ideas and creativity. Opposition shows up in communication such as, “Yes, but…,” “We already tried that and it failed,” and “I have been here for years and I know it won’t work.” While everyone should be singing from the same hymnal, everyone spends far too much time navigating personalities and conflict rather than collaborating, innovating and solving problems.

When people (and the system they operate in) do not actively engage in productive ways of being, they can never really get to real engagement in the workplace.

4. Pursuing perfection

In some cases, leaders of quality-driven organizations pride themselves on a commitment to excellence. But when you create a culture of perfection, people do not take risks. They do not try new things. And they almost certainly do not put themselves or their reputations at risk to color outside the lines.

Perfection, by nature of its definition, leaves very little room for risk-taking and creativity. When curiosity is stifled, mistakes are hidden, learning is mitigated and growth is constrained. In an environment where perfection is celebrated and rewarded, conventionality emerges as a safe bet for staying out of the cross hairs.

In a work place that prioritizes perfectionism, members are expected to conform, follow the rules and make a good impression. But resistance to change can block progress, and complacency sets in. While certain roles demand perfection or someone could die, perfection as a culture limits and constrains what is possible for the organization and the people in it.

5. Keeping the peace and getting along

Everyone in business understands the need to cooperate with others in the workplace. But creating a work culture where everyone has to be liked and get along can lead to bad outcomes. In a culture of approval, everyone agrees with everyone else.

While it is imperative to keep the peace, this has the potential to rob your brand and its people of experiencing the highest levels of role fulfillment and satisfaction. When people (and the system they operate in) do not actively engage in productive ways of being, they can never really get to real engagement in the workplace. That includes constructive conflict, speaking their truth, giving new ideas, and sharing insights about what is not working.

Shaping a constructive culture is about intentionally causing the kind of actions that exemplify your brand promise. This takes a solid intention for that culture to function as a holistic human system, meaning a system of people operating as a living and agile organism. Intentional culture is all about monitoring what you are creating and making necessary shifts along the way to ensure you are accomplishing what you set out to do in the first place.


Magi Graziano is a speaker, author and chief evangelist for KeenAlignment, a global people optimization consultancy firm and Inc. 5000 award recipient. Her book, “The Wealth of Talent,” was written from more than 20 years of real-world, hands-on experience. For more information, visit www.KeenAlignment.com